Length: 56.000 cm
Width: 44.000 cm
Gift of Captain A.W.F. Fuller
Room 26: North America
Beaded pad saddle
Blackfoot, 19th century
From the Canadian Plains, North America
The horse was introduced to southern Plains and Great Basin peoples by the Spanish in the seventeenth century. The horse changed Plains society irrevocably. While the Blackfoot had always lived there, now northern and eastern peoples, such as the Crees and Ojibwas, moved into the Plains to better exploit the rich buffalo herds. As well as for hunting, horses were used for warfare and as pack animals.
The horse acquired religious importance in the Northern Plains, associated with Morning Star and with Duck, spirits of the upper world.
Pad saddles, like most equipment, were made and decorated by women. Two hour-glass shaped pieces of skin were sewn together, protecting horse and rider with a cushion of buffalo or dog hair, or perhaps grass. It was said in the nineteenth century that a horse was able to travel twenty miles further a day with a pad saddle, than with an ordinary frame saddle of the kind used by women. These were made with a cottonwood structure and carved pommel and cantle.
This well-used example is decorated with appliqué glass beadwork in a floral style that derives from the Woodlands.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)